Hybrid Solar Thermal-Biomass Power for California


photo by Alejandro Flores via flickr

One oft-heard, if rather feeble, critique of solar power goes something like, "what happens when the sun isn't shining? You've got to have some other power source available to come online to take up the slack." Fair enough. Even in the sunniest places there still is night, there still can be rain or dust storms which cause the panels to become so dirty that capacity is reduced. Pacific Gas & Electric is addressing this concern with two new solar thermal-biomass hybrid power plants.

Renewable hybrid technology from Portugal
PG&E; announced yesterday that it will be contracting with Portuguese manufacturer Martifer to build two plants near Coalinga, California with a total capacity of 106.8 MW. It is expected that the projects will supply enough power for 75,000 homes in northern and central California.


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The solar thermal portion of the plants rely on the sun's heat to run steam turbines to generate electricity during peak hours of the day, while the biomass portion (fed local agricultural waste and livestock manure) will augment the solar side when the sun begins dropping in the evening and run on its own at night.

A spokesman for Martifer stated that the power generated from the solar thermal-biofuel hybrid set-up would be cost competitive with fossil fuel-powered plants but gave no figures on exactly how much electricity generated in this manner is expected to cost.

via :: Reuters
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Tags: Alternative Energy | Biomass | California